FORT WAYNE – Mike Embach has done nearly as much to keep the Komets in playoff contention as Brandon Marino, who has 26 goals and an ECHL-leading 80 points in 66 games.
The Komets (31-23-12) are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with only six games remaining in the regular season as they head into today’s game at Memorial Coliseum against the Cincinnati Cyclones (37-22-6).
The Komets, who are trying to avoid missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1974 and 1975, are a point ahead of Florida.
The Komets have made 12 trades this season, believed to be a franchise record, and the best may have been the one that brought them Embach and Nathan Martine from Gwinnett on Dec. 12 for Bobby Hughes and Rob Kwiet.
Embach has 21 goals and 39 points in 46 games since the trade.
It’s just his competing that stands out, coach Gary Graham said. He’s finishing his checks and being a rat and agitator. He’s a guy who can get under other players’ skins, and he’s got the skill and finesse to do it.
Embach has points in eight of the last nine games, including a hat trick in a 5-4 loss to Orlando on March 19 that had a one-on-one move so good it was televised nationally on Fox Sports One.
Embach has eight goals and 14 points in the last nine games, and the Komets have gone 5-3-1 to stay in the playoff race despite injuries to Dean and Christian Ouellet, Ben Meisner and Chris Auger.
Embach’s ascension has helped take the pressure off Marino, who is three points ahead of Alaska’s Peter Sivak in the scoring race. The last Komets player to win a scoring title was Lonnie Loach in the now-defunct IHL in 1990-91.
Definitely, there’s been more responsibility and more ice time for me, so you kind of have to step up, Embach said, and it’s been working out so far.
Embach began the season with Cincinnati, tallying two assists in five games. He had six goals and 10 points with Gwinnett in 11 games.
Really, ever since we were down there in Florida for that three-game series (Feb. 19-22), he’s been picking it up and he’s been playing some great hockey, Graham said. It’s good to see him have some success.
Notes: Aaron Clarke was selected Tuesday as the ECHL’s player of the week. He had three goals and six points in two games last weekend at South Carolina, where the Komets went 1-0-1. The Indy Fuel, which will begin play next season in the ECHL, will have a five-year affiliation agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Indianapolis Ice in the old IHL were affiliated with the Blackhawks.
Fans can save $2 on their upper-arena game tickets this week by donating canned or packaged food for the Community Harvest Food Bank.